The Fallacy of “Lowering the Bar” to Hire Women: Breaking Through The Prejudice

In the pursuit of fostering a more diverse and inclusive tech industry, some companies hold the mistaken belief that they need to “lower the bar” to hire more women. However, this assumption perpetuates a damaging form of prejudice. It implies that in order to increase gender diversity, companies must compromise on the qualifications and abilities of female candidates. In reality, these assumptions are unfounded and undermine the true potential of women in the tech sector. Here we explore the dangers of assuming the need to “lower the bar” and offer practical strategies to build a genuinely diverse and inclusive tech workforce.

The Top 3 Problems with Assumptions of “Lowering the Bar”:

  1. Underestimating Women’s Abilities:
    When companies assume they must “lower the bar” to hire more women, it presupposes that female candidates are inherently less qualified or skilled compared to their male counterparts. This harmful assumption overlooks the diverse talents and unique perspectives that women bring to the technology sector.
  2. Reinforcing Gender Biases:
    The notion of “lowering the bar” reinforces harmful gender biases. It perpetuates stereotypes, hampering the progress of women in technology by suggesting that they are not capable of meeting the existing standards without compromise. This not only hinders the advancement of women but also limits innovation and growth in the industry as a whole.
  3. Overlooking the Benefits of Diversity:
    Research consistently demonstrates that diverse teams lead to better problem-solving, increased creativity, and enhanced financial performance. Companies assuming the need to “lower the bar” miss out on the invaluable opportunity to tap into the diverse perspectives, experiences, and skills that women bring to the table. Embracing diversity leads to better business outcomes.

Our Top Strategies for Fostering Genuine Inclusion:

  1. Challenge Assumptions and Bias:
    Tech leaders must challenge their own assumptions about the capabilities of women in the tech industry. Recognise that gender should never be a limiting factor in evaluating competence and potential. Address unconscious biases that can affect hiring decisions through awareness training and accountability.
  2. Implement Structured Hiring Processes:
    Structured interviews and standardised evaluation criteria can help remove subjective biases and ensure fair assessments. Use competency-based questions that focus on skills, experience, and potential rather than personal “fit” or assumptions about women’s abilities. Apply these processes consistently across all candidates.
  3. Create an Inclusive Culture:
    Building an inclusive culture is key to attracting and retaining diverse talent. Foster an environment where women, intersectional and gender-diverse folks feel valued, respected, and supported. Implement mentorship and sponsorship programs, provide opportunities for professional growth, and establish affinity groups specific to women in tech to ensure they have the resources and support they need to succeed.
  4. Expand the Talent Pool:
    Instead of assuming that there is a scarcity of qualified women in the industry, actively cultivate a pipeline. Collaborate with educational institutions, community organisations, and professional networks to make sure women have access to opportunities in tech from an early stage. By expanding the talent pool, you’ll have a broader range of qualified candidates.

Assuming that companies need to “lower the bar” to hire more women is a misguided and insidious form of prejudice. It undermines the abilities and potential of women in technology and perpetuates harmful gender biases.

How to respond to push-back

When faced with this assumption we recommend addressing the misconception that meritocracy is a fixed standard that can easily be compromised by poor performance. Emphasise that the “bar” is not a concrete measure but a socially constructed concept that is influenced by unconscious biases and structural barriers. By acknowledging the myth of meritocracy, you can shift the conversation towards creating more inclusive and equitable evaluation frameworks.

The last word…

Embracing diversity and fostering genuine inclusion requires challenging our assumptions, implementing fair hiring practices, and creating an inclusive culture where every individual has equal opportunities to thrive. Let’s forge a future where diversity is not seen as a compromise but as a catalyst for innovation, growth, and success in the technology sector. It’s time for tech leaders to take action and build more inclusive organisations for the benefit of all.

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Further reading

How to build a genuinely diverse and inclusive tech workforce without underestimating women’s abilities and potential.
By prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion, startups can tap into a multitude of benefits that will propel their success. Let’s explore.
Uncover the differences between traditional and progressive HR and how the latter is essential to build diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, especially on the verge of the fifth revolution.